America;s Got Talent-Season 8 Semi Finals-Chicago BoyzThe best thing about this level of competition in America’s Got Talent is that there really is nothing to say; the talent speaks for itself.  The judges have real competitors to squabble over, twelve hopefuls have a lot on the line, and Nick Cannon makes sure to dress for the occasion.  Is there anything else you could want?  As long as the voters are doing their part, we’re in for a tough top twelve next week.

D’Angelo & Amanda

Starting the night off with a bang, D’Angelo & Amanda were the first to perform.  Dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” the teens displayed their superb talent at pulling off a flawless routine.  Just in case perfect and precise execution isn’t enough to win your favor, D’Angelo & Amanda jumped down from their platform on high to dance in an expansive puddle of water, never missing a step.  Mel B. and Howie felt the kids didn’t take their performance to the next level, while Howard Stern and Heidi Klum rightfully respected the strength and skill it took for them to dance in water without slipping or faltering.  Let’s hope America sides with the later judges instead of the former.

Marty Brown

Looking to make up for his abysmal showing in the quarter-finals, America’s contestant Marty Brown sang Rascal Flatt’s “Bless the Broken Road.”  Sitting alone amongst artfully strewn light bulbs, his performance was more intimate than anything else.  Since he actually sang this time instead of getting choked up and shouting apologies over the music, you could say he’s improved.  Like the judges though, we think Marty put too much emphasis on just mastering his emotions.  His vocals made no amazing runs or attempted to reach a difficult note; it was just a simple, even tone performance.    It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to win over voters so easily in the face of other amazing talents.

Chicago Boyz

The Chicago Boyz know how to milk a summer anthem; just the first few bars of their background music “Blurred Lines” had the audience on their side.  In a few more seconds the entire room was stunned by three of them double-dutching through crossed jump ropes while flipping in unison.  Of course their most jaw dropping feat was having three of their boys sitting on each other’s shoulders—forming a huge human transformer—and jump double dutch while they turned an additional jump rope over themselves while keeping time with the double dutch rope.   Just to drive their amazing athleticism home, the three person high statue stood while the rest of their group used a trampoline to jump over them gracefully.  Every person in Radio City Music Hall gave them a standing ovation, including all four judges.  A top twelve without the Chicago Boyz would be a terrible mistake.

Illusionist Leon Etienne and Romy Low

During the quarterfinals Illusionist Leon Etienne and Romy Low’s performance was nothing short of a disaster.  To maximize their second chance, they jammed as many tricks into their 90 second performance as possible.  All the illusions focused on making something appear surprisingly: a bowling ball dropped down from behind a sketch pad and Romy jumped out of a cage that Leon had just set on fire.  Two new assistants popped out of a box, and for their finale Romy clamored into a box that was soon after it was proved to be empty, only for one of the assistants to pop out seconds later, while Romy reappeared across the hall on the rafters of the audience.  All the judges were impressed, praising Howard for his wonderful wildcard pick.  We’ve got a tough time believing these two truly measure up to the other semi-finalists of the night and the other magician—Collins Key—already in the top 12.

Anna Christine

In an attempt to reduce her stress level on stage, eleven year old Anna Christine cut the piano out of her performance for the semi-finals.  The pressure of self-accompaniment might have been holding her back because her vocal acrobatics to the tune of “Wild Horses” was nothing short of impressive.  The passion of her performance wasn’t plagued by nerves this time, something every other singer in the competition should be concerned about.  We haven’t been completely taken with this little tyke in the past but after last night she has our heart.  Time will tell if Anna Christine’s voice forced its way into the heart of America as well.

Kenichi Ebina

Coming from a crowd pleasing video game themed performance, Kenichi Ebina returned to the stage with perhaps the biggest cloud of expectation of any contestant on stage last night.  For a few seconds it looked as if Kenichi was performing in front of a mirror, however it was quickly obvious that he had prerecorded a ninety second performance with the only person that could keep up with his homogenous blend of martial arts and dance: himself.  Not only did he and his “reflection” perform in unison, they moved in tandem, fighting and wrestling for the limelight.  Like the little starlet before him, we weren’t as in love with Kenichi in the quarter-finals as America was, but his skills are just undeniable.

John Wing

Since his last set centered on his kids, this time John Wing focused on his marriage.  John really rose to the occasion, seamlessly flowing between jokes about his wife’s heightened intelligence and his role as her bankroll.  The most impressive thing about him is that he’s able to breathe new life into subject matter that’s been done to death.  Any comedian that can master the Radio City Music Hall stage deserves a chance.

Branden James

This is the year of the opera singer and that means it’s the year of Branden James.  What Forte can do together, he can do alone.  Standing in front of a bright white background in a stunning blue suit, Branden sang Heart’s “How Do I Get You Alone” in two languages.  His voice is tremendous, and though we loved every second like Howard we felt something was missing.  Howard thought it was the passion, and perhaps there was a slight lack of emotion.  It seemed more like the desire to sing something not traditionally classical was the real element of confusion for Branden’s performance.  Even still, his voice deserves an audience and adulation.

The KriStef Brothers

Returning to the stage after last week’s concussion almost pushed them out of the competition The KriStef Brothers returned to perform the very trick that put half the duo in the hospital.  Stefan lifted Kris high above him using the duo’s favorite feat, hand balancing, while standing on a chair.  Kicking it up a notch, Stefan bent backwards over the chair, leaning on the mat on the floor briefly before climbing back up on the chair.  Of course, he was lifting Kris high in the air the entire time as well.  For their finale the twosome swallowed swords while Stefan again lifted and flipped his partner, tossing Kris so he could land in a graceful crouch.  And yes, their swords ended up being collapsible toys, but does that really matter?  These young men are still performing superb feats of athleticism that many could only dream of completing—if that’s not enough to get voters’ attention nothing is.

American Military Spouses Choir

Finally, the judges are on our side.  The American Military Spouses Choir returned to sing Sarah McLachlan’s extremely emotional tune “In the Arms of An Angel.”  As usual, the choir sounded good, however their vocal abilities pale in comparison to other singers in the category.  It was Heidi’s comments about who they are and the sacrifices their husbands make that sparked true judgment; Howie interrupted to remind Heidi that the ladies should be judges on what they did, not who they are.  The rest of the judges spoke in turn about how at this stage in the competition, their pleasant sounds just don’t measure up to the caliber of talent they’re up against.

Timber Brown

There’s one man who never has to worry about being equal to the competition, and his name is Timber Brown.  Pulled out of a pool by a dangling rope, he got tangled briefly but quickly righted himself only to plunge back into the pool.  Timber’s entire routine was centered on being dragged out of the water, flipping, turning, and spinning through the air only to drop into the water and do it all over.  Though it was obvious to us that it was incredibly difficult to perform his acrobatics while dripping wet, we knew that it wouldn’t impress everyone; Howard and Heidi thought the performance was unequal to his talent.  Whether the voting public values flash more than obvious skill and athleticism will determine if this Olympian moves on to the place he deserves in the top 12.

Jimmy Rose

The other country singer in the competition had the benefit of the final performance, but Jimmy Rose seemed plagued by the same criticism as Marty.    Singing “If Tomorrow Never Come” Jimmy tried to squeeze as much emotion as he could out of the ballad, though it didn’t always come across that way.  This time the judges were divided, with Howie and Mel B. finding his voice touching while Howard and Heidi questioned whether he could measure up to the other singers.  America has made it clear that country singers can and will be pushed through regardless of talent so it’s anyone’s guess on whether Jimmy has a real future.

Who Should Advance: D’Angelo & Amanda, Chicago Boyz, Anna Christine, Kenichi Ebina, Kristef Brothers, Timber Brown

Wildcards: Branden James, Marty Brown, Jimmy Rose